For most of Forsyth Central’s Region 5-7A tournament matchup with West Forsyth on Monday, it felt like the Bulldogs were dealing with a constant escape act.
Like it has all season, Central couldn’t take advantage of most of its scoring opportunities, and despite notching 20 total hits by the end of their game against the Wolverines, the Bulldogs trailed by four entering the bottom half of the fifth inning.
Slowly but surely, though, Central climbed back in, and down to their final out in the seventh down by one, the Bulldogs finally tied the game back up with a Kylie Saunders single to shortstop, scoring Bailey McCachren.
They couldn’t take the win there, though, but in extras, the Bulldogs looked like they were set to end the game quickly, with leadoff hitter Ansley Clark speeding to first for an infield single. But when Clark dashed to second and seemingly got into scoring position, she was controversially called out, drawing the ire of Central head coach Paul Cromie. It seemed like West had dodged yet another bullet.
“(Disipline and mental focus) is something the coaching staff has preached all year,” Central head coach Paul Cromie said. “There are things that you cannot control that are going to happen. That's one of them.”
But after that play, Central just kept the hits going. While the game’s ending was a little anticlimactic with Mattie Smith drawing a bases-loaded walk for the 6-5 walk-off victory, it was a win nevertheless, and Cromie knew that his team’s runs would eventually come.
“It felt like what we've been feeling all year to be quite honest with you,” he said. “It's kind of been a repeating storyline with the team. Being with them every day with all the hours that we put in, I know it's just a matter of time. We took a huge step in a positive direction tonight and I couldn't be prouder of girls.”
For the first five innings, West was doing everything possible to keep the Bulldogs from crossing the plate, even if it meant pitching to plenty of contact. McCachren knocked in Central’s first run with a double to center, but the Wolverines took the lead in the second on a Lillian Seitz groundout and an error that scored Olivia Finamore.
Combined with its stranded runners, Central’s four errors helped keep West in the game. An RBI bunt for Caroline Hayes and a Jenna Harris single helped extend the West lead to 5-1 by the middle of the fifth.
Central’s comeback began in the bottom half with a Mattie Smith RBI triple, and a Sydney Moroney groundout helped set the Bulldogs up for the comeback finish.
“I think every day's a new day and every day's a new challenge,” West coach Justin Rickett said. “I think today we rose to the occasion and got close to accomplishing the challenge. We've got to figure out how to do that again tomorrow and again the next day if it comes to that. I'm proud of the way we competed but it would have been nice to go ahead and win that one.”
West will face Milton in an elimination game on Tuesday, while Central will play Lambert for the right to play for the region’s No. 3 seed.